news

Gareth Thomas apologises for on-air Joe Marler crotch-grab joke

The former Wales captain divided opinion with the gag during coverage of England's Six Nations match against Wales on Saturday (7 March).

2020-03-09

Gareth Thomas has apologised after making a joke live on TV about a rugby player grabbing an opponent's crotch during a match.

Former Welsh rugby captain Thomas, 45, made the gag live on ITV after England rugby star Joe Marler fondled the groin of Welsh player Alun Wyn Jones during England 33-30 defeat of Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday (7 March).

The illegal move was captured on camera before cutting to the ITV studio, where Thomas - who came out as gay in 2009 - was part of the team providing analysis of the match.

As the presenters discussed the, erm, ball interference, Thomas quipped: "It would never have happened in my day and I’m really upset about that - because if it had I would have never retired!"

The remark drew laughter from his fellow pundits in the studio, and from many viewers at home, who shared clips of the exchange online in their droves.

Others, however, were less than impressed by Thomas making light of the incident, arguing that Marler's unwanted touching of another's person's genitalia should be as treated as seriously on the pitch as it would be off it.

The backlash prompted Thomas to issue an apology on Twitter, as the pundit explained he didn't "condone" Marler's behaviour.

"To the VERY small minority of people who were offended by my comment yesterday I apologise", Thomas wrote.

"I tried to find humour in a situation-that doesn’t mean I condone it, it means I wanted it to not be an issue.

"So don’t change the narrative to justify how you feel. Be kind."

Thomas, who made over 100 test match appearances for Wales before retiring from the game in 2011, drew praise last year after revealing he is living with HIV.

The sports star opened up about his HIV status publicly after being blackmailed by tabloid reporters, and later made a tearful speech at the Virgin Atlantic Awards, powered by Jaguar, after being honoured with the Gamechange Award for his work to end the stigma surrounding the virus.